Chatting · Writing Advice

How To Find Creative Friends

You’ve all seen the memes.

The tote bags that proclaim, “don’t talk to me, I’m scheming your fictional death,” the mugs that argue “books are better than people,” and dozens of other introverted slogans plastered on merchandize items sold at the front of Barnes and Nobles. The endless pinterest boards and Instagram feeds full of #relatable #booklover content. Yeah. We’ve all seen ’em.

I object.

Listen, this is coming from someone as stereotypically socially awkward as your next INTJ “not like other girls” author, but finding a supportive community of other creative friends has been the BEST thing for my own creative motivation, the quality of my work, and the improvement of my overall mental health. I’ve shared in the past few weeks how my various friends helped me out through the making of my mistcloak and rambled about the joy and tears they bring me in our dnd games, and I consider myself very blessed to know them. There’s a certain disconnect between myself and people who don’t make stuff. On some fundamental level, I cannot understand people who do not have a story to tell, who don’t have that itch to share art with the world. I need other creative people who can share my passion to stay sane and happy, and with no exaggeration, the people I’ve grown to know and love in the past couple years are the only reason I survived the more difficult parts of quarantine and college.

If you’re looking to expand your own social network of creative people, here are some ways to make friends in those spaces:

Finding the nerds

Join Clubs: If you are still in school, this is the easiest way to get a high concentration of artistic folks in one room. If there’s no such thing as a writer’s group, consider looking into the Dungeons and Dragons/Tabletop Roleplaying Game club (and read my post on how DnD made me a better writer), a book club, or art groups such as knitting/crochet/painting clubs. Show up consistently, and you’ll get to know the other regulars soon enough.

Join Community Groups: If you’re not in school, this is the easiest way to make friends as an adult. These can be a little bit harder to find because they aren’t centralized in the same way clubs at a school are, but google and the library are great places to start. If you have a community rec center, that’s also a good place to look. Find the poster boards full of flyers, and take note of when the meetings occur for any clubs that look interesting. Many libraries have writing and crafting groups and book clubs. Your local game store might be able to get you in contact with other dnd players. Some community centers offer classes that you can sign up for. The point is to get out of your house and attending events regularly.

Check Out National Organizations Local Chapters: The one that immediately springs to mind is National Novel Writing Month. Every November, and often for the camps in July and April, the local municipal liaisons host write-ins and other fun events to help people meet their word count goals. If you make friends with the writers there, you can keep in touch and challenge each other to sprints throughout the year as well, use each other as sounding boards, and cheer each other when you meet major milestones. I’m sure there are other national organizations dedicated to fostering the writing and creative communities, so do some investigating to see if there’s perhaps an inktober drawathon or a fantasy writer’s month doing events in your city. Renaissance Faires are also a great place to hang out and network.

Online Communities: To be clear, you need real people friends to pull you out of your house as well, but I can’t stress enough how fantastic the writeblr space is on tumblr. If you’re into fanfiction, then you’re probably already familiar with wattpad and Archive of our Own. If you’re reading this, I would encourage you to check out more blogs under the writing tag on wordpress! There are so many wonderful people to meet despite the distance.

Ok, so you found them. Now how do you talk to them?

Show up: The sooner you can become a regular, the sooner people will start knowing your face and striking up friendly conversation. The reason making friends in elementary school was so much simpler was because you were forced to spend 8 hours in close proximity to those people. If you simply put in the time to attend weekly meetings and regular events, you may find yourself making friends effortlessly as you bond with your shared interest!

Find the Extroverts: They’re probably the ones leading the club, and they’re probably the ones who will come up to welcome you first. Don’t try to squirm out of those conversations, but if you can endear yourself to one social butterfly, it won’t take long until you find yourself dragged into an extensive friend group. Don’t be clingy or creepy, but if you stay near to them, eventually the other people will come to you by proxy.

Never Say No (Within Reason): Did you get invited to a write in? A trip to the local museum? A music venue? Out to eat after a regular meeting? Unless there’s a legitimate safety or scheduling or health reason not to go with them, try to say yes as often as possible! More often than not, you’ll find yourself enjoying the experience, and it’s an opportunity to get to know the people better, outside of the structured meeting times, which is how deeper friendships form. Making the conscious effort to spend more time in social situations with people who could be potential friends will slowly expand the amount of space for interaction in your social battery. Likewise, being reclusive will make you require more alone time. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone a healthy amount is a good thing, but not to the point that it’s harmful and uncomfortable. It’s perfectly ok to go along to a bar, then order a soda and listen to the conversation instead of being the life of the party. They’ll still appreciate your company.

Networking in real life: Yes, this word is scary. I still find it terrifying. At a Ren Faire this past summer, my friend Ben had to all but force me to self promote my stories to an interested librarian, so I’m certainly no expert, but this is the formula that tends to work in my experience:

  1. Strike up a conversation naturally with a stranger. They might be a shopkeeper at a faire, or someone you’re randomly paired with at an event.
  2. Find something you have in common – usually through the event.
  3. Vibe Check – is this someone you’d like to get to know better? Is this someone that could help you out with a problem you’re having? If yes, proceed to step four, if not, proceed to step five.
  4. If you want to connect with that person, say, “Hey I really enjoyed chatting with you and I’d love to stay in touch. What’s a good way that I can keep in contact with you?”
  5. If you don’t want to connect with them, say, “Thanks for chatting,” and return to step 1. Always be polite, never burn a bridge.
  6. Acquire contact information, either through a phone number or social media. If you get their number, include a little section in the notes about where you met them and something memorable about them or the conversation you had to jog your memory later, and ask for a picture so you can match the face to the name if you have a terrible memory like me.
  7. Follow up. That evening, whenever you get home from the event, or the following day, text or DM them and say, “Hey it’s [Name], it was really nice talking with you at [event] the other day. Thanks for [relevant detail.]”
  8. Continue that conversation if possible by asking appropriate questions about them and their work, especially if your previous conversation got cut off due to time constraints or something like that.
  9. Ask if they’ll be at the next meeting and say you’ll see them there, that way they know to look for you and keep chatting later!

Networking online: This is slightly less terrifying because you can operate behind a screen name and take time to formulate responses, but still can be intimidating if you’re trying to get into a new community. I have another formula for you!

  1. Introduce yourself with a formal post – pin it somewhere convenient so people know who you are at a glance. Update your profile picture so you don’t look like a bot.
  2. Lurk for a bit to learn the etiquette so you don’t accidentally make a fool of yourself – but not too long, so you don’t get intimidated
  3. Follow a few people who seem cool and start sharing their work with friendly comments – if you show up regularly in someone’s notifications, they’ll start to recognize you as a friend and check out your work in turn
  4. Post your own work! Do not be afraid to throw your personal blorbos at the internet! Be as passionate as possible and people will wonder what’s up with that and become curious to learn more
  5. Participate in trends, tag games, ask games, community challenges, and stuff to get you on people’s radar as an active member of the community
  6. Be patient! Social media is meant to be a social place – don’t worry about building a brand, just be yourself and hang out.
  7. Unofficial Rule Seven: Say hi to me! Comments are always open. Just saying! I don’t bite.

Volunteer: Is it too hard for you to network as an attendee? Try signing up to help run these events instead! You’ll receive specific instructions on what to do, which takes the pressure off figuring out social situations yourself, since you’ll be busy setting up and conducting the activity. And people will come up to you to strike up a conversation, so you don’t have to initiate the interaction. Additionally, the staff usually have special privileges and security, smaller group chats, and the shared experience creates closer bonds between them. In my personal experience, people who volunteer for one job are involved as leaders in ten other groups too, so this is an extremely efficient way to make connections with the extroverts who always know another guy. You might even become one of them!


Thanks for reading! I want this blog to be more than me shouting into the void. If I can use this platform to help boost other creators, I’d love to see your work too. If you want to have your recommendations and/or your own writing featured in a Resource Rec post, or if you want to collaborate with me, you can leave a comment below for both, or contact me on either tumblr or IG! If you feel so generously inclined, you can support my writing by leaving me a tip or buying stickers on my Kofi. Until next time, thanks for reading and happy writing!

Chatting · Misc. Creative Projects · Writing Advice

Never Stop Making Stuff

I discovered something delightful the other day whilst backing up my files. (Here’s your complementary reminder to save all your old work. Go do it now, and come back to read this.)

(Everything duplicated and safely archived?)

(Welcome back!)

My art archive starts in October 2019 – I’d just recently joined Tumblr and wanted to participate in the Inktober trend I saw trending. Since I was working on Storge at the time, my bright idea was to illustrate various scenes from the story based on the daily prompts. I’d never picked up a pen for the purpose of drawing, not writing, but armed with a healthy amount of enthusiasm and a staggering amount of sheer audacity, I boldly started posting pictures of my new creations. The result was, unsurprisingly, less than spectacular, but despite the childish style, a few lovely people took the initiative to encourage me – @siarven, @abalonetea, and @inkwell-attitude were some of my first friends in the writing and artistic community, and they remain some of my best friends to this day.

An ink drawing done on dotted paper of a teenage boy standing in a fighting pose with red magic flowing from his fingertips. He has long hair cut around his chin, wears no shirt to show his branching scars in the same red, and basic shorts. The drawing looks almost cartoony, drawn by an amateur.

I kept drawing after that, and my 2019 folder clocks in at 54 items, half of which are reference images of myself posing to figure out how to draw hands. Mostly, I used ink, pencil, and colored pencil. They are truly atrocious and so I will not inflict you with any more than this, but the experience was a solid start to learning how to draw!

2020

This year has 217 items! Look at that huge increase in quantity! This is partially because this folder spans a whole year, rather than a few months tacked onto the end of a year. This year also saw the rise of zoom university during the first round of pandemic lockdowns, and I kept drawing as a stim to keep my hands busy during class. I started learning anatomy and character posing. Mostly I used ink, pencil, and colored pencil, and with the spike in quality, the quality and my speed dramatically improved as well.

2021

This year became much more busy with school and work so it has a pretty significant decline in quantity to 140 items. HOWEVER, this year saw probably my largest improvement in developing my personal style. I became much more comfortable with “eyeballing” natural looking poses and conveying the right expressions.

[Image Descriptions: 5 photos in a tiled gallery.

Photo 1: Shows a pencil drawing of a humanioid bird-person mid-flight. He’s angled facing the viewer, and looks at something to his top-right with a mischevious expression. He wears a simple tunic and holds an object in his hands clasped close to the chest. His wings and tail feathers are outstretched.

Photo 2: Shows a woman from the waist up, spinning around to look at the viewer with a shocked expression. She has dark skin covered in small pockmark scars, and hair in braids that swing around her.

Photo 3: Two drawings on one page. The top right drawing shows a young girl with dark skin, freckles, and long curly hair wiping blood off her nose. She wears a simple white tang-top dress. Lower drawing shows a teenaged boy mid-run, one arm in front of him with hand oustretched, the other flung behind him. He has dark skin, freckles, short curly hair, and a determined expression. He wears a simple white tunic, grey pants, and a cloak that billows behidn him. Golden magic is thrown between his hands in an arc.

Photo 4: Shows a picture of a sketchbook page, done in pencil, against a red carpet background. The page shows a figure with a smirking jack-o-lantern head standing on a beanstalk. He wears jester’s clothing, a broken crown, and a cloak with frost curling at the edges. He carries a pail of water that sloshes over the edge and drips into ice crystals, and an axe is belted at his hip. Below him, a bridge is lit with candles, while the moon is bright in the sky above against a dark background.

Photo 5: A pencil drawing of two figures hugging. The shorter one is a woman with long blonde hair and wearing a long dress, burying her face in the chest of the taller man. He wears a tailcoat and has light hair cut around his chin, and he looks at her with a surprised expression, not quite sure what to do with his hands as he moves to hug her back.

End Image Descriptions.]

2022

The year isn’t even finished and we’re at roughly 411 items! I learned markers! I taught myself digital art and experimented a ton with my style and rendering! I drew a whole comic! I designed stickers! My mediums have expanded into laser etching acrylic, 3D Printing, and audio editing! I embroidered a ton of patches, hand sewed a shirt, and machine sewed a cloak! I started playing with my hair and nails and makeup for the first time since I was eight and I am turning myself into the piece of art!!!

[Image Description: 14 images in a tiled gallery.

Image 1: A pencil drawing of a young girl with dark skin and long curly hair wearing a white tang top dress. Her eyes are completely black, and she has a shadowy halo behind her. She appears angry and focused. / Image 2: A photo of me sitting next to a river wearing a white billowy pirate shirt. I’m turned away from the camera so you cannot see my face, but I have dark hair in a french braid and wear a hoop earring. It’s a cloudy day. / Image 3: A blue pen doodle in my school notes on lined paper of a woman in profile. She has curly blonde hair that tumbles around her shoulders and has a sad distressed expression. Her freckles are stars. / Image 4: A photo of my hand holding a large clear knife cut from acrylic against the backdrop of the laser cutter I used to make it.

Image 5: A photo of my hand holding a sticker from my shop, titled “A Well Armed Author.” It depicts a white saber against a dark blue background full of stars. Black ink swirls with a magic golden glow burst from the bottom of the sticker and swirl around the sword to form a fountain tip pen at the point. The shop is blurry in the background, and my thumbnail had chipped black polish. / Image 6: A photo of a red articulated 3D printed velociraptor sitting on my open notebook. It is slumped backwards and resting on its tail as if tired.

Image 7: A marker drawing of a teenage boy with dark skin and dark curly hair cut around his chin. He smiles and holds up his arms, casting a spell. Shreds of white and golden glowing magic swirl around his open hands. / Image 8: A mirror selfie showing off my patch jacket, holding my phone in front of my face. The jacket is a dark grey-green. On there shoulder there is a homemade Bridge Four patch from the Stormlight Archive – a white and blue geometric design. There is also a karate patch showing the US and Japanese flags. Over the heart is a heart-shaped patch with The Amazing Devil band logo – a stylized abbreviation of the band name. Over the other lapel is another karate patch showing a fist in white and red. On my hip is an oval shaped patch that reads “Crafty Bitch” with various art supplies. Over each pocket is embroidered flowers and mushrooms, with added plastic foliage stitched on. / Image 9: A photo of me wearing a white shirt and twirling in my black cloak. I’m standing against a stone wall in the woods, and grinning. I have tan skin, brown hair cut in a bob, and I’m smiling.

Image 10: A digital painting of a man in armour with a billowing red cape, facing left and shown in profile. He holds out an arm towards the viewer, holding a curved sword. The background is dark blue. He has an angry determined expression and blood streaks off his blade. / Image 11: A digital painting of a woman with pale skin and a short curly bob knitting. The fabric hanging from her needles is transluscent and shows stars caught between the threads. The fabric and the needles are bloodstained and she has a wicked smile, being lit from behind by white light. Text reads “The Edge of Infinity” in white letters over the fabric.

Image 13: A digital painting of a girl from behind wearing a dark green coat looking out over a mountain range in the distance. She’s surrounded by trees and the whole painting is done in shades of greens and blues. / Image 14: A digital painting of a teenaged girl looking distraught. She has olive skin and freckles, and muddied brown hair being whipped by the wind. She wears an orange wrap with green borders and a yellow undershirt, and clasps her hands to her chest. Blood and shadow swirl around her head. Black and white lineart overlap the watercolor texture. / Image 15: A digital painting of a young woman sliding down a roof in an acrobatic pose. She’s wearing a sports bra, baggy pants, and wrapped boots, and wears her hair in a high pony tail that’s messy and coming loose. She has black geometric tatoos on her face and wrists. The entire paining is done in shades of red, pink, and purple.

End Image Description]

I hope that watching this progression serves as some small inspiration for any other discouraged artists. Never stop making stuff.

Future you will thank you.


Thanks for reading! I want this blog to be more than me shouting into the void. If I can use this platform to help boost other creators, I’d love to see your work too. If you want to have your recommendations and/or your own writing featured in a Resource Rec post, or if you want to collaborate with me, you can leave a comment below for both, or contact me on either tumblr or IG! If you feel so generously inclined, you can support my writing by leaving me a tip or buying stickers on my Kofi. Until next time, thanks for reading and happy writing!

Chatting · Writing Advice

The Blurry Line: Between the Developmental and the Copy Edits

Line editing is an often misunderstood and surprisingly nebulous stage of the writing process. To make sure we’re all on the same page in terms of vocabulary, I’ve copied a common definition:

A line editor is attentive to the writer’s individual style (for that reason, the job is sometimes called stylistic editing) A line editor works line-by-line, tightening up sentence structure so the language is sharp and clear. They look closely at how a writer’s word choice and syntax contribute to the tone or emotion of a piece of writing. Finally, a line editor is concerned with the overall pacing and logical flow of a piece… Where line editors are concerned primarily with questions of style, copy editors are concerned with mechanics.

https://www.masterclass.com/articles/what-is-line-editing

This description makes the process sound nice and linear. In fact, I fell into the same pattern when I wrote my earlier post on the complete start-to-end editing process for a manuscript, placing it after the beta-read, and before a professional copy edit. I thought of it as a dividing line between the unwieldy draft and the polished manuscript. I also wrote that post before I’d actually completed those editing stages on Storge. The information is still useful, albeit generic, and not pulled from personal experience. That’s why today I want to do a deep dive on just this one step, to clarify some of my older points and elaborate with my experience in editing Runaways.

The first thing to remember is that writers never obey definitions. After all, you have to know the rules so you can break them! The line editing stage is extremely nebulous at best. How long it takes and how many rounds you complete largely depends on the style and quality of your previous developmental edits, how long you’ve had to develop your writing style, if you’re comfortable in the mood and tone of the story you’re trying to tell, and your personality. Some people pay closer attention to details, others are impatient to fix issues as they arise and bounce between steps as needed. Both are totally valid ways to write.

When preparing a book to share with beta readers, eventually you reach a threshold where you have to decide “this is good enough.” In most cases, sharing the draft with readers means they will comment on the high-level issues with the story: all elements that fall under the developmental edit. Meticulously editing for style and tone could be a complete waste of time if your readers end up recommending that entire chapters need to be rewritten, reordered, or scrapped. However, if the prose is not polished enough, the clunky writing may be enough to distract the reader from the larger issues they should be focusing on, and diminish their enjoyment of the book as a whole. Most beta reader feedback is a combination of the two types, and so all the edits in between rounds of feedback become a combination of developmental and line editing. Once you get to a certain point in the story, the changes you need to make to things like the character arc or to clarify world-building are less in the form of scrapping-and-rewriting whole scenes, and more making subtle tweaks to word choice and sentence structure to convey a certain tone properly.

For a Runaways example, when Cecelia disappears in chapter 1, I wanted to portray the Teagan parents as good folks who are worried about their missing daughter, but trying to keep calm so they can find her, and keep Hannah from panicking. Most of my feedback said that the parents seemed too callous and unconcerned because a few lines of dialogue just hit off target. While that plot-point hasn’t changed, I altered the sentence-level structure so that Hannah perceives how her parents really feel and it adds to the growing tension of the inciting incident. Other scenes need to be rewritten completely in order to fix the pacing, such as the sequence of introducing Hannah to the Seelie Court. Some scenes are fine as they, but contain some clunky sentences, which my wonderful reader, Arva Bake, highlighted in yellow. This flagged the problem lines without changing the feedback on the story. Green highlight also told me where my delivery had an excellent impact, and red markup showed inconsistencies.

As I write the next draft, I’ll work my way through the feedback from the developmental to the line edits, before doing another round and starting the process again. In each new draft, my final step is to go through the prose with a fine-toothed comb and make the writing as clear and engaging as possible. This includes doing grammar and punctuation checks, which fall under the purview of a copy-edit. This is why I now refer to line edits as the blurry line between stages of the process. Resolving one issue often bleeds into polishing that section in other ways as well, and it’s impossible to draw a clean differentiation between them when you are doing edits yourself.

When both you and your beta readers are satisfied with the manuscript, then it is time to hire a professional editor, or several. When employing a professional, the distinctions between developmental, line, and copy editing DO matter. There’s often a significant difference in price tag for more intensive edits, and it’s recommended that you hire different people for each stage, to get fresh sets of eyes on the story with every change in focus. Understanding the difference between the three is important when discussing these terms in industry, and they provide us as authors with a helpful vocabulary to describe what elements of the story we’re focusing on when we self-edit. I hope this was a helpful guide for you!

If you found this post useful, please let me know what you think! Do you have any other questions about the editing process that I can answer? Next week, I’ll be travelling for a school conference, but I’m hoping to put up a short story for the Inklings Challenge! If the post is a few days late, that might be why. Catch me scribbling away on the plane while I don’t have any internet to distract me. If you feel so generously inclined, you can support my writing by leaving me a tip on my Kofi or donating using the secure box below. Until next time, thanks for reading and happy writing!

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Chatting · Writing Advice

My Beta Reader Experience

Last week, I announced that I’m putting my novels on hiatus for the semester. In case you missed that post, I’ll recap here: I know this will delay my publishing goals significantly, as I wanted to release Runaways shortly after graduation, but I think ultimately this is the better choice for my mental health and the quality of the writing.

For one, I need more distance from the story before I can edit with a clear head, and without the self-imposed pressure to rush, I’ll do a better job of cleaning it up. I also need money to pay illustrators and editors, and if I can save up for a year with my Real Life Adult Engineering Job, I’ll be able to afford more detailed and a larger quantity of illustrations, as well as several rounds of rigorous editing. Additionally, I need to focus this semester on getting good grades, applications, and networking, so I can find a Real Life Adult Engineering Job, and that’s eating a significant portion of my time. With what little free time I have left, I want to spend it with my friends before we all scatter to the winds in May.

But I figured this is a good time as any to go over my beta reading process in the hopes that you can learn from my experience! If you missed it, I’ve also put together a post about my full editing process, but today and next week’s post will do a deeper dive into the steps. A beta reader is someone who’s not familiar with the story who volunteers to give you their honest opinion of the draft. While your critique partners, alpha readers, or Designated Writer Friends might already know all the plot twists (or helped you come up with the plot twists), generally speaking beta readers go in with the basic knowledge any reader would have if they picked it up at the library. They don’t have to be writers. In fact, it might be better to have some who aren’t writers and won’t be looking for the behind-the-scenes craft. Here’s how I went about this step of the writing process:

Continue reading “My Beta Reader Experience”
Chatting · Writing Advice

What I’ve Learned Writing Short Stories

Since launching my website, getting involved with the writeblr community, and starting my newsletter, I’ve tried my hand at quite a few short stories. They’re a completely different beast from novels, much less a series, and utilize a completely distinct skill set of storytelling tools. Today I’m sharing some of the tricks I’ve learned in my experience!

You can still outline – It just looks like a list of bullet points or one paragraph instead of a spreadsheet and a wall full of sticky notes. I find it useful to still have a plan going into the story, so even the bare bones of a character objective and obstacle can help structure the plot and keep it from running off an extra 3000 words, or running into the ground after two paragraphs.

Choose one thing to improve or experiment – In each of my stories, I’ve taken the opportunity to mess around with a particular aspect of the story, be it a strange POV, changing the tense, turning it to script form, playing with the alightment, color, font, and format of the text, or other such shenanigans. The nice thing about a short story is that you only have to commit to the bit for a few thousand words, rather than an entire book, and it takes a lot less time to revise. It’s like doing figure studies in art, or scales in music.

You often start In Medias Res – In short stories, there is rarely page-time for backstory or build-up. It’s crucial to jump straight into the action, and keep the narrative running at a steady pace. It’s a different story structure than you often find in full-length books, and so it’s interesting to explore a unique process of plot beats that might not line up with what you’re used to writing.

Explore different elements of your world – If you’re stuck with the plot of your main WIP, short stories are like writing fanfiction for your own book. Explore “deleted scenes” that you might not expect to make it into the final cut of the draft. Switch POV for a scene to a side character who doesn’t often get the spotlight. Explore an alternate universe to see if changing the setting leads to more interesting conflict. This is what I’ve been doing with the Runaways universe, to share lore about Seelie the girls don’t get to see.

Finishing smaller projects is a confidence booster – When you slog away at a giant WIP for years it can be easy to get discouraged and feel like you’ll never finish. If you’re anything like me, checking things off a list is supremely satisfying, and tinkering away can get exhausting when you look ahead and see no end in sight. Bashing through small works is a great way to revive motivation when you can see the checkmark within a week or two of setting out. Accumulating a nice backlog of works also means you have them to pull out and share at a moment’s notice, which is also great for getting immediate feedback, since people are more likely to read and finish a short story.

Treat it like a low-budget theater production – We don’t have time for set dressing! That costs words! You’re reusing the blue curtains whether you like it or not! What do you mean three side characters? Can’t we get away with Joe in a funny hat? Graphic descriptions of props and macguffins? That’s a nerf gun covered in masking tape and paint. It doesn’t need backstory. LIGHTS CAMERA ACTION!


Thank you for reading! Next week I’ll be sharing a review of Newsletter Ninja, so be sure to check back for that, or to leave a writing prompt in the comments. If you feel so generously inclined, you can support my writing by leaving me a tip on my Kofi or donating using the secure box below. Until next time, thanks for reading and happy writing!

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Chatting · Writing Advice

Creative Strategy

Trying to maintain a balance between real-life obligations and your creative pursuits is less like walking a beam and more like one of those platform games where you just have to time the jumps right and hope you don’t fall in the lava. Our days are a battlefield of shifting schedules and absent attention spans, so today, in the honor of my website-launch anniversary earlier this month, I’m sharing some of the wisdom I’ve learned over the last two years. If you’re looking to be more purposeful with your writing work, I hope this can share some helpful advice!

What are your long-term goals?

If you want to write as a hobby and post your work for free online, your first and only priority should be to write for yourself and have fun. If you want to publish, you’ll need to know whether you want to self-publish, query agents to go on submission to traditional publishers, or run a hybrid model, and do research on what it takes to make it into each side of the industry. What are your goals for publishing? Sales, royalties, marketing commitments, and professional skill sets are all important factors in deciding which type of publishing you want to pursue, and one route or the other might be better depending on the book and your mindset. If you want to write under a pen name, do you plan on having multiple pen names and running multiple platforms? What genres do you write and what’s your target audience? Do you want to make this your full-time career or pursue something else as a day-job and keep this as a passion project? The answers to these questions will determine how you approach your personal writing strategy – which shouldn’t be the same for everyone!

My example: I knew in high school, when I started thinking about career paths and college majors, that I wanted to have a financially stable life where I could work a 9-5 or eventually part-time role and still have mental energy to work on my hobbies when I came home. I’ve talked before about how I balance my storytelling and STEM studies, but this means I treat my writing like a part-time gig. My goal is to self-publish because I like the idea of maintaining creative control and a larger percentage of royalties from my sales. I write under the name Etta Grace to separate my fiction from my real-life career and maintain my privacy on both this platform and from my employers. At one point, I thought about launching a second pen name for my middle-grade fiction, but decided running two platforms and building a new one from the ground-up would be too much work. Therefore, my platform needs to have some crossover appeal to reach my wide audience audiences.

It’s not too late or too early to think about this and making a new plan. If your life situation changes, if might be a good time to reevaluate, if you’re going through a big career change, starting or finishing school, or going through a significant family event. Write these down before you continue reading.

Look ahead at the year

It’s impossible to plan for everything, but through a global pandemic and an impending economic recession, we still have to go to class, work, and see our families. It’s easier to account for ebbs and flows in productivity when you know what obstacles will keep you from the laptop and you can compensate for the lost time in the quieter weeks. Sometimes it’s possible to line up steps in the writing process with these seasons, such as releasing a suspense story around spooky season. Keeping tabs on upcoming events helps keep you from getting blindsided by the inexorable progress of time.

My Example: My semester starts in August, so I planned to finish editing Draft Three of Runaways around that time so that I could hand off the manuscript to beta readers while I tackle senior year. When I move out of my apartment, I’ll need to take down the sticky outline that’s still hanging on my wall, so the Laoche spreadsheet/document outline needs to be done by the time you’re reading this. I want to cosplay Vin Mistborn for Halloween so when burnout hit this summer; I switched to working on the first piece of the costume so it would be ready in advance and picked a shirt design I can use for multiple costumes (check out last week’s post if you missed it for a walkthrough of that thought process).

If you know there’s a transition coming up, do yourself the favor to pre-emptively work around it. With a plan in mind, that’s one less stress to be cluttering your mind during those turbulent periods of life. Unlike a writing career, getting a degree has a clear path to follow, so this lets me make progress towards my personal goals without feeling like I’m falling behind on my books.

Look ahead at your fiction

Planning a series is an enormous commitment. Publishing leaves you open to further exploration with those worlds, characters, and missing scenes if you have avid readers who will want to know more. Marketing requires having freebies on hand to encourage people to read your work, such as mailing list cookies and art giveaways. My best advice for not going insane is to multitask – if you can reuse short-stories for content, save yourself the pressure of producing extra words under time pressure. Use every project as an excuse to procrastinate on other projects, so you can always stay working on something that interests you at the moment. Whether you’re a plotter of panster, before going into any publishing, have an end in mind by outlining or fast-drafting.

My example: I’m terrified of publishing Storge – the prequel for the Laoche Chronicles – then starting on the series itself and realizing I didn’t set things up properly and I can no longer go back and retcon my old work because it’s already released. I’m outlining the entire series at once hoping there will be less risk to releasing the books one at a time as I write them without digging myself into a plot hole. I want to work a few books ahead of schedule, so that #1 is done and #2 started by the time Storge gets published. This way, there’s not a huge wait between them, and I know I’m up-to-date on my lore and foreshadowing. I also plan to have novellas between the books to fill the time and provide missing-scenes. Unfortunately, making a debut with something this massive is intimidating, and so I plan to self-publish Runaways first, as it’s a much simpler and self-contained story. I needed cookies for my mailing list, so instead of writing one-off short stories, I’ve been using this method to explore the fae world more, and want to collect those works waiting in reserve for an anthology.

Even if you have nothing published yet, it never hurts to start working on your author’s platform early, so that by the time you have all your ducks in a row, you also have readers at the ready. Think about how you want your book-backlog to look in 5, 10, 20 years, and set up a list of priorities so that you can switch out WIPs as needed.

Making Connections

Writing should not be a solitary endeavor, and I don’t know what I would do without my friends to enable this insanity. For more practical purposes, your friends are the people who are going to tell others about your writing, especially if they’re also creatives. You become mutual promotion machines and meet new people through the networks you create simply by putting yourself out there. This falls under the umbrella of “building a platform” but really that means building a community.

My example: In 2019 I joined Tumblr, whipped up a blog header and WIP intro, and started posting horrible Inktober illustrations of the Storge cast. Two incredible authors – @abalonetea and @siarven found my work by checking out my blog after I left comments on their work, and we hit it off. Their introduction to the writeblr space let me meet dozens of other talented people and we still chat ideas to this day. You might recognize their names from my interviews here: where we talk about character development and worldbuilding, respectively.

Be friendly, leave comments, find your social media platform of choice, and join groups. Try to get to know the extroverts because they’ll introduce you to the rest of their friend group by proxy. I always prioritize the relationships in my life first because I’m not super social at work, but I have a close knit friend group in real life as well and those people are really important to me and supportive of my creative endeavors.

Budjeting

Money is deeply annoying, and adulting is hard, but fortunately it is also extremely important and so we should still talk about it. If you self-publish, you will need to pay for everything out of pocket, but you will keep more of your royalties and start earning money immediately after the book sells. If you traditionally publish, you will get an advance payment and should not pay for anything throughout the process, but you will not start making royalties until after the sales have paid back the advance, and then you will earn a smaller percentage of your royalties. This is a major factor for many writers in choosing career options. If you know you will be self-publishing, it’s best to start saving up now. It’s also worth considering if you want to monetize your author’s platform, and if so, how? Patreon, Ko-Fi, donations, ads, commissions, and ghostwriting are all additional options to help your writing fund itself.

My Example: In May, I will graduate and start my new adult career in some engineering role. I want to have an editor, illustrator, and cover artist picked out for Runaways by June, so when I have Salaried Money and no more student loans to pay off, I can hit the ground running with production for publication. This blog doesn’t cost me a lot of money to maintain, but it is an enormous time investment, and it would be worth it to set up some kind of monetization, however small, sooner rather than later. I run unobtrusive ads at the bottom of my posts. Though I don’t have the traffic yet to see any payout, I hope it’ll accumulate, eventually. I set up a way to tip me directly if people feel like being a ~patron of the arts~ but I will never lock things behind a paywall or subscription because I don’t believe in running a creative hobby like that.

This is an extremely personal decision, so choose what works the best for your personal situation. A lot of creatives break out in hives at the idea of setting up a budget and marketing their work, but it’s worth thinking about if you want to have peace of mind about making ends meet.

Bide your Time

As far as I’ve read and experienced, it takes roughly two years to establish any kind of online “presence” that gives you consistent feedback. Growth follows generally follows an upward curve, and at a certain point, if you’re lucky, that turns exponential. Consistency helps to please the fickle attention span of the internet, but make sure it’s at a pace that works for you. Though a lot of success in creative industries comes down to luck, don’t let that discourage you from putting yourself out there. Luck is just where preparedness meets opportunity, and you’ll have more opportunities the longer you’re in the game and know where to look, and if you have a strategy in place, you’ll be prepared to jump on opportunities when they come up. Don’t follow the trends, be yourself, and know that eventually algortighms and reblogs and word of mouth can work in your favor to bring people to you.

My example: On a daily and weekly basis, my views for this site are all over the place, but if you look at my history, you’ll see how my audience has grown. These screenshots are from 8/7/2022, as I’m queuing this in advance, so they’re slightly outdated, but still an accurate representation of the point I’m trying to make.

These are the statistics for my top 5 posts in the past year. I wrote the post on Addie La Rue without realizing its popularity, because I just thought it was a good story and worth analyzing. This accidental trend-hopping has contributed far more to those views than any of my original work, and it brought a few readers to the site who ended up sticking around.

Follow your interests, and you’ll be surprised where it leads you. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get the results you want right away. Remember, strategy is playing the long game, and it’s not a race.

Habits aren’t for everyone

The advice to write every day is EVERYWHERE in the writing community – from NaNoWriMo to that one post about Terry Pratchett’s 200 words before breakfast. It’s easy to fall into this mental trap that if you aren’t building consistent habits, you’re horrible and a failure and you’re Never Going to Make It. My dear friends, that is but mere bullshit. I know I said earlier that consistency helps build a following to appease the internet attention spans, but that’s the miracle of the queue button.

My example: I sprint through writing in hyper-focus mode and switch projects rapidly to keep things interesting. It’s possible to *post* every week without *writing* every week. The fiction writing matches roughly the same pace. This graph is from last year’s sprint:

Take it at your own pace – even if that pace is oscillating between manic progress and forgetting about it for weeks on end – then schedule things in advance if you need.

Build Backup Plans

Burnout aint pretty and no strategy is complete without prepping contingencies for crises. Leave enough room for inspiration to take the wheel, and to move to more relaxing projects when you’re sick of the big ones. You can always make them work into the big scheme later, and passion is never wasted. I’m definitely not the fastest writer, but I think being well rounded and protecting your mental health is more important than word count.

Thank you for reading and let me know if this has helped you at all! Next week I’ll be sharing a short-story I wrote for the Writeblr Summerfest event hosted by @abalonetea, so make sure to stop back for that. If you feel so generously inclined, you can support my writing by leaving me a tip on my Kofi or donating using the secure box below. Until next time, thanks for reading and happy writing!

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Chatting · Writing Advice

How to Finish What You Start

This video by Thomas Frank inspired this blog post. I highly recommend checking it out if you have the time! It’s generalized to any creative process, but I want to offer resources and exercises for authors to do to help us finish our WIPs! Many of these are tried-and-true methods for beating writer’s block, so let me know if you’ve tried them before, and how they work for you!

The Problem: Paralysis of Choice

Continue reading “How to Finish What You Start”
Chatting · Writing Advice

6 Ways DnD Has Made Me A Better Writer

This is a random topic compared to my usual posts, but it’s one that’s been knocking around in my brain for a while. I’m currently in five campaigns (that meet with varying degrees of regularity), I’ve finished several one-shots and two long-running games, and have two more on deck for the summer, so I’ve had plenty of experience coming up with whacky characters and navigating the dilemmas that the DMs throw at as. I’ve only DMed a few times myself, but I am always in storytelling mode, so this was really just the natural result of exposure to the clicky-clacky-math-rocks. This is less focused on mechanics, and more geared toward player dynamics and character creation, but I hope you find it useful!

Continue reading “6 Ways DnD Has Made Me A Better Writer”
Chatting · Writing Advice

How To Write A Fighter

If you’re here looking for a guide on how to write a fight scene, I’m afraid you’re in the wrong place. There are approximately 59,900 results on google about descriptive verbs and pacing, which are useful, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about today. Today we’re talking about characterization.

Everyone loves a fighter. They’re compelling by nature – someone who’s willing to put their life and safety on the line for something they believe in or a person they care about is someone the audience will root for. But how does this archetype act when they’re not in combat? How might a trained character approach a battle differently from your average Joe? I think the mindset of a fighter is interesting to explore in slice of life scenes, and this article will break down some ways to think about your OCs in a different context.

What are my credentials to talk about this? I did Shotokan Karate for 9 years, fencing for 3 semesters (started with Epee and switched to Sabre recently, if you’re curious), and just started taking Tae Kwon Do on my college campus. I am not a sharpshooter, but I have some experience with both firearms and bows as well. This article won’t get into details of different weapons or fighting styles, but the advice will apply to a broad range of contexts and genres. So, shall we begin?

Continue reading “How To Write A Fighter”
Chatting · Reading Recs · Writing Advice

5 ways to Encourage Kids to Read

When he was ten, my little brother was not a “fan” of anything. He enjoyed certain tv shows, but never got invested in the story and rarely read voluntarily, much to our mother’s chagrin. Mostly, he hung out with his jock of an older brother who poked fun at the fandom and writerly shenanigans of my marvel-obsessed sister and I, the resident Nerd and Author who “Care Too Much” about fictional worlds. Today, my twelve-year-old brother finished a 12-page-long original story, and is working his way through Lord of the Rings.

Around the same time, at the start of 2020, I was in one of the worst reading slumps of my LIFE. High school literature classes and a busy college/work schedule took my reading habit from several books a week to 1 or 2 a year. Thanks to a few beloved friends’ encouragement, I started the Stormlight Archive, and bounced back to reading over 30 books by this past year.

I’m not a teacher, or a parent, but I have learned a few things from watching his development these past two years, and watching the tricks that my friends pulled on me. For anyone else who spends a lot of time with impressionable kids and wants to play the (incredibly fun) role of neighborhood eccentric that sends children on adventures, here are 5 ways to encourage them to read.

Continue reading “5 ways to Encourage Kids to Read”